Monday, June 22, 2009

Turn the Altars Round

Augustine says (De Verbis Domini, Sermone 100, 2): “The East,” that is Christ, “calleth thee, and thou turnest to the West,” namely mortal and fallible man.  

– St Thomas Aquinas, S.T., IIaIIæ, 189, 10, resp.

Glad tidings of great joy I bring: the Archbishop of Westminster has cast out the 'temporary' forward altar at his Cathedral, and henceforth Masses will be celebrated at the original high altar, as is most just; while still Mass can be said there facing the people, nonetheless the return to the proper, more evidently sacral high place of sacrificial worship ought help the restoration of what is much to be desiderated: liturgy ad orientem.

In the Coptic Liturgy, directly before the Sursum corda dialogue that leads into the Preface, or rather into the whole Eucharistic Prayer or ‘Anaphora’, the deacon (or, in his absence, the server) exclaims: “Stand up with fear and trembling! Look toward the east and say: ‘Mercy, peace, and sacrifice of praise!’”. This  “Look toward the east” is expressed in Greek as Εἰς νατολὰς βλέψατε, and in Latin as Aspicite ad orientem – a phrase founded upon Baruch 4:36 and 5:5. The Coptic admonition states explicitly what all classical liturgies down the ages have assumed, as an Apostolic tradition: that worship is directed toward the (liturgical) east. For the east, synonymous with the dawn and with the sun, is a symbol of Christ our Lord and God, Who is the true East (cf. Zech 6:12, LXX & Vulg.), the Dawn from on high (Lk 1:78), the Sun of justice (Mal 4:2a (or 3:20a)), the true Light of the world (Jn 8:12; 9:5), Who has risen and shall never set, Who has ascended above the heaven of heavens to the east (Ps 67(68):33, Vulg.), Who shall come again in glory as lightning flashing from the east to the west (Mt 24:27), as was prophesied by Ezekiel (43:2).


Quasi Seminarian said...

I like this Archbishop!

Anonymous said...

I recently listened to a talk by a Priest I know who successfully argued that the post-Conciliar trend towards 'versus populum' worship had no historical fact, and proceeded to explain its architectural origin - and short life! It now only has a place in old basilicas!

Joshua said...

Short life alright: given the ongoing decline in Mass attendance, pretty soon Father will stand at the altar and face - no one. A just reward for stupidity.